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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

How Do I React To Andean Ceremonies?

On many occasions during our trip, we’ve helped perform a ceremony that is known in Andean cosmovision as a coa. A coa is an offering to the Pachamama, or Mother Earth, made up of coca leaves, seeds, and many other decorations, each one representing something entirely different. After adding each component of the coa onto a thin piece of paper, we empty the contents onto a fire and take in the smoke. Finally, we all pour a few drops of pure alcohol around the fire and say “jayaya,” which represents our life and our affirmation of ourselves as human beings.

I came into this trip thinking that my spiritual and religious philosophy would be completely transformed. While I’ve certainly learned a lot from the Andean ceremonies we’ve done so far, it’s been harder for me to spiritually connect with them than I might have thought. Many elements of what we’ve learned so far — for example, about global economics, music and cooking — are easy to bring back home, but for me, Andean cosmovision spirituality isn’t nearly as portable.

Arguably the most important piece of Andean culture is the coca leaf, which is illegal to possess in the United States due to it being one of the primary ingredients of cocaine. But in Andean cosmovision, one speaker told us, the coca leaf is equivalent to life itself. It’s very commonly chewed in a similar manner to gum, and often used for ceremonies and other Andean traditions. Without the coca leaf, Andean cosmovision wouldn’t exist.

To conclude, it’s been tough at times to really invest myself in Andean cosmovision just because of how brief my exposure has been, and will be, to it. But as we enter the Peru portion of the trip, I’ll be doing my best to immerse myself as much as possible.